The Brain Drain

Enterprise - - Contents -

Some of the cur­rent gi­ants in the global cor­po­rate sec­tor that have led to prod­uct and tech­nol­ogy in­no­va­tions had a very hum­ble be­gin­ning where young stu­dents turned their ideas into vi­able busi­nesses by ini­ti­at­ing ven­tures while work­ing from their dor­mi­to­ries. Some of such com­pa­nies in­clude Google, Ap­ple and Mi­crosoft.

The idea of Google orig­i­nally came in 1995 from two Stan­ford stu­dents who ini­ti­ated a re­search pro­gramme to de­velop math­e­mat­i­cal knowl­edge for World Wide Web. They started their pro­ject in the stu­dent dor­mi­tory and now Google is a global tech­nol­ogy gi­ant and is in the list of world’s most valu­able brands.

The cur­rent mar­ket cap­i­tal­i­sa­tion of Google is $360 bil­lion which is more than the GDP of Pak­istan.

Sim­i­larly, Ap­ple was es­tab­lished by Steve Jobs in 1976 in his par­ent’s garage. To­day Ap­ple tops the list of world’s most valu­able brands with mar­ket cap­i­tal­i­sa­tion at $750 bil­lion. There are quite a few other such ex­am­ples.

With the suc­cess of young en­trepreneurs, there is a re­al­i­sa­tion in pol­icy cir­cles to har­ness their en­er­gies for lead­ing in­no­va­tion and new busi­ness ven­tures. This has led to the pro­lif­er­a­tion of busi­ness and tech­nol­ogy in­cu­ba­tors for men­tor­ing and nur­tur­ing the ideas of stu­dents and young en­trepreneurs for busi­ness start-ups.

In the US, there are more than 300 such in­cu­ba­tors that at­tract the best and bright­est to try their luck with en­trepreneur­ship.

The in­cu­ba­tors pro­vide a host of ser­vices that in­clude ca­pac­ity build­ing, le­gal and sec­toral ser­vices, of­fice space and equip­ment, es­pe­cially for tech­nol­ogy en­trepreneurs. Th­ese in­cu­ba­tors are also linked with ven­ture cap­i­tals for fund­ing needs of the start-ups.

The EU is also catch­ing up with the US with more fo­cus on tech­nol­ogy in­cu­ba­tors and de­vel­op­ing link­ages be­tween univer­si­ties and in­dus­tries.

The busi­ness and tech­nol­ogy in­cu­ba­tors are now in­dis­pens­able tools in the EU’s en­tre­pre­neur and in­no­va­tion pol­icy. The EU has been very suc­cess­ful in trans­fer­ring the R&D through pub­lic funds to gen­eral use through the busi­ness in­cu­ba­tors that have fa­cil­i­tated sci­en­tists to com­mer­cialise their in­no­va­tions through busi­ness ven­tures.

In­dia is also fa­cil­i­tat­ing busi­ness and tech­nol­ogy in­cu­ba­tors, es­pe­cially in the IT sec­tor. Its govern­ment has es­tab­lished IT in­cu­ba­tors in 34 cities where en­trepreneurs are be­ing of­fered a wide va­ri­ety of sup­port in the form of seed money, shared of­fice space and ca­pac­ity build­ing.

The idea of busi­ness in­cu­ba­tors is also gain­ing pop­u­lar­ity in Pak­istan where 30 such fa­cil­i­ties pro­vide shared of­fice space, men­tor­ship and ca­pac­ity build­ing to help en­trepreneurs launch their busi­ness projects.

De­spite th­ese ini­tia­tives, top grad­u­ates from lead­ing univer­si­ties still pre­fer to go abroad in the hope of join­ing global firms. This has led to brain drain which has se­ri­ous con­se­quences for so­cio-eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment of the coun­try.

For pol­i­cy­mak­ers in Pak­istan though the brain drain leads to a con­sid­er­able loss of skilled and qual­i­fied pro­fes­sion­als to global mar­ket­place, it brings in valu­able for­eign ex­change through worker re­mit­tances. Last fis­cal year, Pak­ista­nis work­ing abroad re­mit­ted $18.4 bil­lion which pro­vided a life­line to the bal­ance of pay­ments po­si­tion of the coun­try.

There is an in­creas­ing re­al­i­sa­tion in pol­icy cir­cles to strike a bal­ance be­tween ad­dress­ing the brain drain and tap­ping the re­mit­tances of Pak­ista­nis work­ing abroad.

Some of the ed­u­ca­tional in­sti­tu­tions in Pak­istan are pro­duc­ing out­stand­ing pro­fes­sion­als. Lim­ited op­por­tu­ni­ties in the do­mes­tic mar­ket and lim­ited space for en­trepreneur­ship com­pel them to seek em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties abroad.

Here the tech­nol­ogy and busi­ness in­cu­ba­tors can play a mean­ing­ful role in sup­port­ing the fresh grad­u­ates with in­no­va­tive ideas for busi­ness ven­tures.

Funds are also a must

Ex­perts be­lieve in an econ­omy like Pak­istan with lim­ited fund­ing op­tions for busi­ness start-ups, the es­tab­lish­ment of in­cu­ba­tors may not be suf­fi­cient to spur en­trepreneur­ship. It would also re­quire equity and ven­ture cap­i­tal to take risk and fund in­no­va­tive and risky ideas.

The other im­por­tant el­e­ment in the suc­cess of tech­nol­ogy in­cu­ba­tor is the R&D ca­pac­ity of the aca­demic in­sti­tu­tions. The busi­ness in­cu­ba­tors at­tached with sci­ence and tech­nol­ogy in­sti­tu­tions have helped sci­en­tists com­mer­cialise their re­search and in­no­va­tion and has been a mo­ti­vat­ing fac­tor for them.

With the launch of 3G mo­bile con­nec­tiv­ity, there is op­ti­mism about the prospects of e-com­merce and e-busi­ness in Pak­istan. A num­ber of firms have taken the ini­tia­tive and are gain­ing pop­u­lar­ity es­pe­cially in the busi­ness to con­sumer mar­ket­place.

Pak­istan is at a point where the US and Western Europe were in the late 90s when the in­ter­net and e-com­merce were gain­ing pop­u­lar­ity.

The pol­i­cy­mak­ers should con­tem­plate mea­sures that can fa­cil­i­tate Pak­istani tech en­trepreneurs in nur­tur­ing their busi­ness ideas into vi­able busi­nesses. One of the vi­able op­tions could be the avail­abil­ity of seed money through pub­lic re­sources. This is a pop­u­lar pol­icy op­tion in a num­ber of coun­tries where pub­lic funds are pro­vided through busi­ness plan com­pe­ti­tion.

The suc­cess­ful ap­pli­cants are then pro­vided op­tions to join one of the des­ig­nated busi­ness in­cu­ba­tors for a spe­cific time pe­riod where they can nur­ture their ideas into vi­able busi­nesses.

En­trepreneur­ship can stim­u­late eco­nomic growth and em­ploy­ment gen­er­a­tion. The tech­nol­ogy and busi­ness in­cu­ba­tors have an im­por­tant role in de­vel­op­ing en­trepreneur­ship.

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